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When I first read the news that Arch Enemy was going to follow in the steps of bands like Testament, Twisted Sister, and Sodom, I wasn't really surprised. Despite being the minority of AE fans, there is still a lot of support for the songs on their first three albums. Consequently, since these fans are in the minority, those songs constitute the minority of your typical AE live set, or in some cases are absent altogether. So now we have The Root Of All Evil, the band's attempt to bring those older songs to a new audience so they can be more widely known and therefore played live to the pleasure of all fans, old and new. (Though I'm sure we all know the real reason why this was done. Hint: $) How does it fare compared to the original recordings? Not well.
The song selection is largely unsurprising. From Black Earth (1996): "Bury Me An Angel", "Dark Insanity", "Demoniality", "Transmigration Macabre". From Stigmata (1998): "Beast Of Man" and "Bridge Of Destiny". From Burning Bridges (1999): "The Immortal", "Dead Inside", "Pilgrim", "Demonic Science" and "Silverwing". Also included is "Diva Satanica", which has been a bonus track on a few albums in a few different countries. While I could sit here and really nit-pick, I'll just say that a few of my favorites are missing and the inclusion of Demoniality is puzzling, considering it's the worst of AE's instrumental tracks.
The music here is almost identical to the original compositions. Since some of the songs here were written and recorded before bassist Sharlee D'Angelo was a part of the band some of the bass lines are reworked but this is largely unnoticeable on the final product. The guitar work here is a tragedy. The aggression and emotion that was on the original recordings has been erased with a squeaky clean production job, leaving the guitars flat and unappealing. Sections of some songs, such as The Immortal and Dead Inside, sound as if they have been slowed down compared to the originals. The drumming is mostly identical to the original recordings, and is solid throughout the album. Angela Gossow's vocals are the biggest detriment to this release. I enjoyed a lot of the material on Wages Of Sin and Rise Of The Tyrant, but here I just can't hear past them. They are weak and over-produced and frankly sound like shit. She also enunciates the lyrics differently in some areas which really disrupts the flow of the music and is very distracting to hear. They don't add anything new to the songs here.
Overall this release is a waste of resources that could have been used in recording a new album of original material. It lacks emotion, sounds lifeless, and sucks the life out of the songs. If you haven't heard the early albums then just listen to those and not this pathetic cash grab. If this does result in more of the old stuff being played live then great, but I still say that this was unnecessary.